The union hall outside the Spring Hill GM plant is busier than it has been in years. On a recent morning, old-timers collect union cards and pass out UAW t-shirts to the newbies who are here as part of their company training.
It’s clear who the new-hires are. The employee badges hanging around their necks say “temporary” in block letters.
“We think you guys are in very good shape," UAW local 1853 president Tim Stannard tells the trainees, addressing what is the elephant in the room. He tells the incoming batch that they won’t always be compensated as second-class employees.
“Stay calm," he says. "You made a good gamble. It’s a good job. Just be patient. We’re working on it, and we’re pushing hard.”
General Motors is in the middle of hiring 1,500 workers for production of a new Cadillac SUV in Spring Hill. Despite the rejuvenated auto industry, the pay and benefits are substantially less than they were before the Great Recession.
The wage concession was part of a deal GM struck with the UAW in the depths of the recession. Employees come in at just shy of $16 an hour. Full-fledged workers make close to $30. Newcomers also don’t get the same benefits, like deep discounts on GM cars.
But that doesn’t seem to matter.
Travis Angus quit a steady factory job in Pulaski for this opportunity.
“I’m banking that I’m not going to stay temp very long,” he says.“You have to step out on faith.”
Taking an even bigger leap is Charice Manley of Michigan. She’s relocating her husband and three kids for a job that — right now — doesn’t pay much more than the office position she’s leaving. Being from Michigan, Manley says she has lots of relatives who raised their families on a generous GM paycheck.
“I saw the benefits that they have had, so I just wanted that same thing for my family,” she says.
Employees are being told they will get there, as soon as the UAW can renegotiate.
Manley says she can wait, signaling that GM’s legendary compensation continues to be a big draw to Spring Hill, even though it’s not guaranteed.
“If you start at the top, there’s no room for improvement or no way to work yourself up the ladder," she says. "So this is my way of doing that.”